Beyond their incomparable beauty, these four palaces have incredible stories to tell. Author Désirée Sadek takes us on a tour.
Yvonne Sursock ~ Beirut
Commanding the attention of all who pass by, Villa Yvonne Sursock is nothing short of a masterpiece. The villa occupies a prime position on a street lined with beautiful homes built by the Sursock family.
Ornate marble columns, walls decorated with finely sculpted stucco, towering ceilings and enormous 19th century hand-woven carpets are just a few of its many iconic features. Stairs, arcades and fountains intertwine gracefully in the midst of an 8,000-square-meter garden full of giant trees, which feels more like the Italian countryside than Beirut.
Moukhtara ~ Shouf, Mount Lebanon
Meaning “The Chosen One,” Moukhtara was built by the Druze Sheikh Ali Joumblatt on the ruins of an ancient Frankish castle. Located in the heart of the Shouf region 825m above sea level, Moukhtara has remained the stronghold of the Joumblatt family.
Although Moukhtara was destroyed in 1825 during struggles between the Druze sheikhs and Emir Bachir Shihab II, Florentine artists rebuilt the residence in the 19th century adding Italian design elements to soften the character of the building.
Today the palace is the home of Walid Joumblatt and his wife, Noura. Inside, the huge library houses an incredible collection of books, weapons and insignia from the Second World War. Wooden furniture with mother of pearl inlay adorns the dining room, while a leather armchair and designer furniture decorate the living room.
Residence Karami ~ Tripoli, North Lebanon
Lebanese politician and religious leader Abdul Hamid Karami used to deliver speeches from the oval balcony of this exquisite palace in the early 1920s, where he lived with his family. From the front door to the stained-glass windows, the accuracy of proportions and masterful harmony of colors add to the beauty of this residence.
Originally the palace had just function and dining rooms on its first floor and bedrooms on its second, but refurbishment has meant that each floor is independent. In 1999, Michel Tarazi restored the magnificent woodwork created by Gebran Tarazi, bringing the palace back to its former glory.
Residence Achkar And Charriere ~ Byblos, Mount Lebanon
A celebration of the past, this spectacular 18th-century palace has been restored without any renovation work; the paintings, ceilings and floors are all original.
On the ground floor are the common areas, the kitchen, laundry room and bedrooms of the housekeeping staff. The first floor is made up of reception rooms and master bedrooms. There are also hidden apartments formerly reserved for women.
As the house was designed in harmony with the surrounding environment, it exudes a sense of peace and serenity. Each room feels unique, even more so at different times during the day. The bathroom contains a tub from Damascus, while the vases, cut from a single block of stone, come from the souk in Istanbul.
Discover more of Lebanon’s incredible heritage homes, villas and palaces in Désirée Sadek’s book “33 Sublimes Maisons Libanaises.” Available at bookshops across Lebanon and online.
Article published on November 4, 2019
Article updated on April 15, 2021